Brian Harms, a student at the Southern California Institute of Architecture has developed a 3D printer with some extraordinary capabilities. The printer deposits a light-curable resin into a gel-filled print bed. The gel acts as a support structure and allows the robotic arm to move freely while it prints, building in a freeform manner. Harms calls the new process "Suspended Deposition".
The Suspended Deposition process also features the ability to print using vector-based tool-paths rather than paths generated by contouring a digital model. "One major distinction between this project and other rapid prototyping processes is the ability to utilize 3D vector-based tool paths. Virtually all other processes use paths generated via contouring a digital model, and rely on the hardening of each successive layer before being able to move on to the next." Harms said on his website. "The suspension of resin in space without added support material allows for the ability to navigate and fabricate directly on and around other existing objects within the Gel, as well as the ability to observe the process from any angle."
Harm's new 3D printer also has a few other bells and whistles worth noting. "The suspension of time in this process allows for tool changes, manual injections, on-the-fly robotic injections, multi-material injections, live modification of the digital or physical model, and the ability to physically 'undo' (resin removal via suction or scooping)." he said.
Normally, 3D printed support structures are cleaned off and discarded once the piece is printed. With Harm's printer, the gel base is reusable so it creates less waste.
Harms put out a Vimeo video detailing the Suspended Depositions process: